No Smoke No Poke

Common cold could be in your next tank full

2nd May 2013 | BY NSNP

Apparently some extremely clever bods in white coats have developed a means of making bacteria produce diesel fuel “on demand!” 

A team from the University of Exeter have managed to create the specialised strain of e-coli that will turn sugars into synthetic diesel that is almost identical to the dino derv that gets pumped out of the ground. The benefits of this are that it does not need to be cut with petroleum products as currently happens with bio diesel. What’s really exciting is that the process is carbon neutral and would run existing vehicles without any modification to either engines or filling stations.  

Professor John Love from Biosciences at the University of Exeter says: “Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset. Replacing conventional diesel with a carbon neutral biofuel in commercial volumes would be a tremendous step towards meeting our target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Global demand for energy is rising and a fuel that is independent of both global oil price fluctuations and political instability is an increasingly attractive prospect.”

“E. coli bacteria naturally turn sugars into fat to build their cell membranes. Synthetic fuel oil molecules can be created by harnessing this natural oil production process. Large scale manufacturing using E. coli as the catalyst is already commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry and, although the biodiesel is currently produced in tiny quantities in the laboratory, work will continue to see if this may be a viable commercial pathway to ‘drop in’ fuels.”

Whilst sneezing into your filler cap to top up your tank might not quite be around the corner, in the future we’ll definitely be seeing more and more of these processes already refined by nature, and then modified to create new and innovative fuels. In 50 years time when you take your classic car from 2012 out for a Sunday spin, hopefully you’ll still be able to find a place to fill ‘er up with a clean and modern alternative to burning all those old dinosaurs.


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